South Memphis

Video series explores worldwide divides, spotlights Memphis for unequal food access

In Memphis, your neighborhood can take years off your life.

It has a lot to do with access to healthy food. 

Wealthier neighborhoods have ample access to well-stocked supermarkets. Memphians in more affluent areas like Midtown, East Memphis and the surrounding suburbs can expect to live, on average, 13 years longer than residents in the food deserts of South and North Memphis. 

From income gaps to border walls, The Guardian's Divided Cities explores the issues that separate people and communities. The newest release in the five-part, international series explores inequities in food access through the lens of South Memphis residents and community leaders.

Titled "The food deserts of Memphis: Inside America's hunger capital," the 13-minute short film shows how we got here, the experiences of South Memphis families, and the people and organizations working toward solutions. Residents, medical experts, and neighborhood leaders weave our city's story of food, transportation, corporate profit and pervasive poverty. 

Two South Memphis residents, Doroles Bateman and Michelle Williams, anchor the film with their personal narratives of the challenges they face trying to feed their families with miles to the nearest grocery store and no personal transportation.




High Ground News' former executive editor, Madeline Faber, and current managing editor, Cole Bradley, worked with The Guardian team as local fixers for the film. Beginning in March, they helped The Guardian's team connect with on-the-ground voices in South Memphis and understand the city's complex history and current state. Memphian Kristin Jones also served as a local fixer during the final planning and filming stages. 

Related: Seeing Red l: "Mapping 90 years of redlining in Memphis"

Faber and Bradley pushed for a solutions-oriented approach to the film, rather than a sole focus on contrasting Memphis' haves and have-nots.

The film's final cut did not include some of the critical work happening in South Memphis, like scenes shot at Green Leaf Learning Farm, a USDA-certified organic farm in the heart of South Memphis which gives away fresh produce to residents and teaches children about farming, healthy foods and entrepreneurship. It does, however, highlight the work of leaders and leading organizations like Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Archie Willis of ComCap Partners and Roshun Austin with The Works, Inc. 

The film features scenes from The Works' South Memphis Farmers Market and The Grocer, which offers fresh produce in the heart of South Memphis, as well as cooking classes and other programming for residents of all ages.
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